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Three Books That Should Be On Every Animator’s Shelf

There are a lot of books about animating and recently I read three that deserve to be on every animator’s bookshelf. They are enjoyable to read and full of excellent tips and information for novice and professional animators alike. Two of them, Independent Animation - Developing, Producing, and Distributing Your Animated Fim and Acting for Animators are updated versions of previously published books, proving their popularity.

    There are a lot of books about animating and recently I read three that deserve to be on every animator’s bookshelf. They are enjoyable to read and full of excellent tips and information for novice and professional animators alike. Two of them, Independent Animation - Developing, Producing, and Distributing Your Animated Fim and Acting for Animators are updated versions of previously published books, proving their popularity.


Developing, Producing, and Distributing Your Animated Film 2nd Edition

By Ben Mitchell

       In this, the second edition of Ben Mitchell’s book, he not only covers the entire process of creating an independent animated film from development to storyboard, casting to editing, but he also explains what is involved in sending your film out to festivals. The question of whether to put your film on Vimeo or YouTube is covered as well as how to negotiate your way through the all-important distribution maze.

    All of this insightful knowledge from the first edition of Independent Animation has been enriched with new tips from well-known names in independent animation. The new chapter on going “web sonic” includes a case study of Dutch animator Joost Lieuwma’s hit YouTube/ Social Media series Cartoon Box. Joost discusses the development of the series and the demands inherent to creating ongoing content for an online audience.

    The chapter on funding your project has been expanded to discuss the etiquette of crowdfunding and offers a reality check on how much time and energy it takes to send premiums back to funders not to mention how much the postage costs. Tips to help you succeed in your crowdfunding campaign come from independent New York/Latvian animator Signe Baumane who ran a successful, if exhausting, campaign to fund her award-winning feature film, My Love Affair With Marriage.

    New insights about the best way to approach funding for an auteur film come from Helen Burnsdon, veteran animation producer and director of the British Animation Awards. The funding chapter also includes a new case study by British animator Joseph Wallace as he breaks down the unique and challenging funding journey for his 16-minute film Salvation Has No Name.

    In the chapter titled Keeping it Real, some of independent animation’s best and brightest have soldiered on through the complex and long, long road to completing their films. After making his feature film Mary and Max, and overseeing a large crew, Adam Elliot talks about doing everything himself from the script to post-production on his latest film Ernie Biscuit. Kirsten Lepore also weighs in on working alone on her film Hi Stranger which went viral on Vimeo and YouTube, while Robert Graves gives his perspective on what one might do differently if returning to a project. He actually did go back and redo an earlier project, Sausage.

    Don Hertzfeldt has been added to the roster of new names in the second edition of Independent Animation with his insights into casting World of Tomorrow. Don also talks about using mixed media approaches in his work and what the turning point in his 2005 film The Meaning of Life meant to him as a filmmaker.

    Los Angeles-based Irish animator and game developer David O’Reilly knows about burnout. He voices his thoughts on mental health and avoiding burnout. It is a subject that no one wants to talk about but is all too prevalent in the world of animation and game design.

    A chapter on Thinking Outside of the Lightbox is an important new addition to the book. In this discussion, festival directors of some of the most respected animation festivals weigh in on the critical dos and don’ts of short filmmaking and especially what pitfalls to avoid. This chapter is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse inside the minds of some prominent festival directors and see what they are looking for in a film.

    Even if you already own the first edition of Independent Animation, you will want the new edition of this book. It is not only packed full of new information; it is well organized and easy to read. The index is thorough and the recommended reading list is comprehensive.

    Independent Animation is an informative and comprehensive book that every animator should keep at their fingertips as an excellent reference book.

    The author, Ben Mitchell, comes with plenty of credentials to write a book about independent animation. He is an animator, motion designer, composer, and award-winning independent filmmaker. As a freelancer he has produced work for Wild Brain, CBeebies, Channel 4 television, and Plymptoons to name but a few of his achievements. His six multi-award-winning short animated films have been showcased in over 200 international film and animation festivals.

    Ben is also an active writer and researcher. His writings can often be found in Skwigly Online Animation Magazine. He is also the Editor and Chief of Skwigly.

You can listen to an introduction of the book in podcast form at:

Independent Animation can be ordered from the publisher, CRC Press at: 9781032103105

ISBN 9781032103105

422 Pages 247 Color & 49 B/W Illustrations

Published April 11, 2023, by CRC Press

CRC offers free shipping in 7 to 14 business days:

The book is priced at £44.99, approximately €52.05, and $57.39; CRC also offers a hardback edition for £120.00 (€138.77, and $152.34) and in eBook form for £40.49 (€46.82, and $51.40).


By Ed Hooks

    Ed Hooks was a professional actor for almost 30 years. He trained in New York and has appeared on stage, screen, television. In the 5th edition of his book Acting for Animators, he expands on his technique, applying classical acting theory to animation. His book delves into scene structure, character development, and how to animate a thought. Along the way he talks about special cases, such as the challenges inherent in making an animated documentary and, importantly, he poses the question “Who is your intended audience?”

    Ed understands that the actor in an animated film is the character on the screen, but it is the animator who brings the character to life. To be able to do this, the animator must understand the connection between thinking emotion and physical action.

    Ed says “It is true that animators are ‘actors with pencils. But it is also true that storyboard artists are actors with pencils, and dialogue artists are contributing to on-screen performances. The fact is that there are a lot of ‘actors with pencils’ contributing to the typical animated character performance today. Presumably, every single one of them will ideally have a masterly grasp of animation theory.”

    Ed began teaching animators the principles of acting specifically for animation in 1996 at Dreamworks/PDI. Since then, he has taught internationally at major studios, video game studios, and animation schools.

    The fact that this is the 5th edition of Acting for Animators demonstrates how important this book is to the animation community. It delves into scene structure, character development, and how to animate a thought. Ed realizes that “There are many sets of fingerprints on most animated character performances today – storyboard artists, dialogue recording, maybe mocap, rigging, the director of course. In this revised 5th edition, I take all of that on board. I am convinced that, even though the book is entitled Ed Hooks’ Acting for Animators, performance today takes a village of artists. I wrote this for all of them”.

    The Classroom Notes section of the book offers random, but as Ed says, very specific notes and points that have come up in his masterclasses over the years. As an animation historian, I found the brief section on the history of acting training for animators from Elizabethan England where the audiences were raucous and jeered and talked back to the actors down to Stella Adler, who taught Maron Brando, to be fascinating. His discussion about Mocap is very insightful and thought-provoking. I have a feeling that he will have more to say about the development of this new technology in future editions of Acting for Animators. There is even a section on Experimental Animation.

    A very interesting addendum to the book is a 1935 memo sent by Walt Disney to Don Graham, Disney’s resident art teacher. In it, Disney outlines what he thinks are the necessary qualities and skills for a professional animator. Ed has included the memo in the book because he feels that it still has an influence on animation today. Going through the entire memo paragraph, Ed adds his thoughts and reactions to what Walt said. When I asked Ed to comment on Disney’s theories, he said “Character performance is ready for fresh evaluation industry wide. Animation should stand on Disney’s shoulders – not sit in his lap”.

    The final section of the book is devoted to the acting analysis of five extremely different films. The five films are Flee (2021) directed by Jonas Poher Rasmassen; Grave of Fireflies (1988) directed by Isao Takahata; Soul (2020, by) Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers; Porco Roso, by Hayao Miyazaki; and The Triplets of Belleville (2003) by Sylvan Chomet.

    Ed’s analysis of the films may not change your opinion of them, Porco Rosa is still a favorite film of mine, but it is interesting to see the films through someone else’s eyes.

    Acting for Animators is written specifically for animation professionals and provides an essential primer for creating empathic and dynamic character performances and shows how the storytelling structure works. Not only will every animation professional benefit from reading this book, every animation student can use it as a basic tool for the foundation of their career.

    Looking toward the future Ed says that “Animation is the most underappreciated and underdeveloped art form of the 21st century. It is time for this new generation of artists to take the baton – and lead us to heights the early animation pioneers might have only imagined”.

    Let us hope that the next generation all read Acting for Animators and are inspired by it to create wonderful, imaginative animation whether in short or feature format. 

Acting for Animators can be ordered from Rutledge Press:

SBN 9781032266473

244 Pages 96 B/W Illustrations

Published May 24, 2023, by Routledge

The book is priced at £28.99, approximately €33.54, and $36.98; CRC also offers a hardback edition for £120.00 (€138.77, and $152.34) and in eBook form for £26.09 (€30.17, and $33.12).

There is a 20% discount, valid until 30 September with this code: EFL02


By Julia Peguet

    Julia Peguet is a professional animator who has worked in animation since 2000. After getting her start drawing, she moved on to stop motion and Claymation, which she says has always been her true passion. In 2004 she joined the team of Aardman Animation, where she still collaborates on projects as well as working with studios in other European countries. Her work has included animating characters for Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Creature Comforts, and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, as well as Sony’s Play Doh commercial, with its multi-colored rabbits. In recent years she has also taught masterclasses and workshops for film and visual arts projects.

     The Secrets of the Animator is based on Julie’s years of experience as a stop-motion animator. Over the years she has kept a notebook about techniques that she has discovered by trial and error, after mistakes or simply through reflection. In her writing she also acknowledges that tips were also shared with her by fellow animators.

    The first chapter examines the fundamental principles of animation. Chapter two is an exploration and breakdown of the mechanics of motion, frame by frame. In chapter three the basics of constructing a simple workable puppet are demonstrated as well as how to construct visual effects that will transport viewers into an artificial reality.

    Chapters four and five are an in-depth analysis of the actor’s role which is essential to conveying a clear message and creating an emotional connection with the audience immediately. This critical part of the animator’s job is examined in great detail for human characters in chapter four and non-human characters in chapter five.

    The detailed appendices are broken down into five separate areas. The Animator at Work explains what you need to remember when you start to work. Details such as the importance of making a shooting schedule and shooting any shots with elements in common at the same time are discussed. Julia’s list may seem just common sense but it is a lot to remember If you are just starting out.

    Julie also clearly explains the principles of physics as they apply to any motion (animation curve, momentum, rebound, etc.) as well as providing practical tips for stabilizing a puppet, animating a character’s mouth and eyes, or even making a character stand out with a particular gait.

    A glossary defines the technical terms used in the book. Under Concepts to Distinguish straight ahead animation or frame by frame vs key-frame is discussed as well as the difference between pose vs frame, animating on ones vs on tows, and shot vs scene.

    Each chapter includes easy-to-follow exercises to help the reader understand and put into practice what thy have learned.

    I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Paguet as part of my Book Chat at Animafilm, Zagreb Animation Festival so I know firsthand that she knows what she is talking about. She is as articulate on the subject of stop motion in person as she is in Secrets of the Animator.

I recommend this book to any young stop-motion animator or anyone who wants to better understand how this amazing art form works. Seasoned stop-motion animators might also be amazed 

Secrets of the Animator can be ordered from CRC Press:

ISBN 9780367252007

240 Pages 353 Color & 268 B/W Illustrations

Published October 7, 2022, by CRC Press


Paperback: £36.99 (€42.80, $47.19) and £115.00 for Hardback (€132.99, $145.99)